Teide Peak via Pico Viejo

Crossing the pahoehoe lava from Roques de Garcia on path 23

Looking back from higher up path 23. Note the big accretion balls of lava in the valley we had walked up










Last Wednesday, I went up Mt Teide with three friends.  We decided to walk up from the Roques de Garcia opposite the Parador on path 23 which goes to Pico Viejo.  I had never done this route before and it turned out to be a really lovely walk, with remarkable volcanic interest and landscape.  In the summer with the flowers out it would be even more spectacular, with the scent of the white flowers of Retama del Teide (Spartocytisus supranubius) and all the colours of the yellow flixweed  (Descourainia bourgaeana) and Teide sticky broom (Adenocarpus viscosus) mixed with the pink of the shrubby scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus).  We had been going to do the trip in June and would have had that bonus if we had, but would have also had the drawback of the hotter sun.  The weather on Wednesday could not have been more favourable for a tough walk, it was sunny and pleasantly warm with a light breeze to cool us.  The only complaint was that the views were a bit hazy – not so good for the photos.

The path passes close to a huge accretion ball as we near the ridge

Path 23 introduces itself at the start as ‘A path through Teide’s and Pico Viejo’s pahoehoe and aa lava flows’ and it certainly lives up to the description.  It starts out on the smooth surfaced pahoehoe lava from Pico Viejo, and then crosses some dark grey, loose, aa lava from Teide, back onto some old well-weathered Pico Viejo lava covered with plants, then over more aa lava from Teide before reaching the ridge near the Pico Viejo crater.   So there are a number of little ups and downs on the route where you either cross a lava flow, or cross the levees or cooled banks of lava at the edge of flows, between which the lava flowed before ending dried up as the lava ceased flowing.  In the valleys between the ridges there was a lot of vegetation, right up until we nearly reached the ridge at 2900m.  In the valleys there were also accretion balls of lava that had rolled down from the aa lava flows on the steep slopes.  These are sometimes called ‘Teide’s eggs’, like the ones around Montaña Blanca on our way down.

Looking into the crater of Pico Viejo


Once we reach the junction of path 23 with path 9, on the ridge, we decided to go a little way to the left to have a look into Pico Viejo’s huge crater.  I had heard, and seen from a distance, about the solidified lava lake sitting in part of the crater, and wanted to see it close up, but was disappointed that I could not see it.  Of course, I was looking straight at the side of it, as became clear when we looked back from higher up, but from the viewpoint we were looking from, the flat top of the lava lake was out of sight above us.

Returning from the crater we started the climb up the ridge between Pico Viejo and Teide.  This was the difficult bit of the walk, as, after a short walk on pumice, apparently from an eruption from Montaña Blanca, we began the walk up an aa flow from Teide composed of loose rocks and boulders.  The path was reasonably well-marked, although at times you had to look hard to know which way you were supposed to walk.  It was hard-going and slow walking upwards, but reasonably safe as long as you watched your feet.  However, I would not like to walk it downwards, where the loose stones on some steep stretches could cause falls.

A view of the Pico Viejo crater, with its lava lake to the left-hand side, from the rocky ridge to Teide

After two and a quarter hours of difficult walking up this rocky stretch we reached the mirador at the end of the cobbled path from the top of the cable car.  The cobbles were very welcome, making much easier walking for tired legs.  By now the evening was cooling, and we had been walking for 7 hours, and still had to get past the cable car and down the path to the Altavista Refugio before dark, which we managed.

Walking down to the Refugio as the setting sun leaves a Teide shaped shadow on Las Canadas

The night in the Refugio was not very restful, with 14 people in the dormitory, some going to bed comparatively late, and lights going on and off and torches flashing, snorers, etc.   It ended earlier than we had intended, too, when the first couple decided to rise at 4.30 a.m. – there was no sleeping after that!  So we left the Refugio at 5.30 to go up to the peak of Teide for the dawn, feeling jaded.  This was when we found that we had only two torches between 4 of us, and there was little moonlight.  However, we did make it to the peak in time for dawn and found seats on the rocks to watch it.  We had left the Refugio with the thermometer standing at +8˚C, but 400m higher, and exposed to a moderate wind it felt a lot colder than that, so with all our layers on, we waited.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of cloud, and after a streak of red between some clouds began to fade, and it began to get light it became clear that we were not going to see the sun rise.   So we took some photos around the crater and began the descent.

Looking down at Montana Blanca from the zig-zag section of path 7


We went down past the Refugio again, and down the seemingly endless zig-zags to Montaña Blanca.  The path despite the zig-zags is still quite steep, and stony, so quite hard on tired legs.   At the bottom of that section we continued down path 7, now easy walking on a pumice track until we met path 6.  Going left, path 6 continued on an easy pumice surface until we got to El Portillo.   We could then relax, have a beer and a decent meal while we waited for the bus to take us home.

About Sally Whymark

When I retired and moved out to Tenerife a few years ago, one of the things I really wanted to do was go walking in the mountains. The scenery is very dramatic, and varied. The views are amazing. The native birds and butterflies and other fauna are remarkable. But the flowers - they're just stunning. Little did I know how this would fire up my interest in plants. While living in England, I had always had an interest in flowers and plants, indeed I ran a plant nursery with my husband for many years, but had not spent a great deal of time pursuing botany. But when walking in Tenerife, I noticed all the unfamiliar shapes of the local flowers, and longed to find out more about them. There are literally hundreds of species endemic to just Tenerife (or even just one part of it), the Canary Islands, or Macronesia (the Atlantic Islands, including Madeira, Canaries and Azores). They are so exciting, and so many of them are really showy as well. So I have started this blog to share with you my excitement at all the great sights I see when walking in Tenerife. I hope you'll enjoy it - and want to come here and experience it for yourself.

Posted on September 24, 2011, in South Tenerife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Did this walk today, partly in the rain. Shortened it by about 4.8 km by parking near the bridge over the barranco 1 km from Poris, and by returning from the cemetery without going up to Arico Nuevo – just about enough for a half day.
    A pleasant walk, well described and signposted.
    Some of your walks have clear information on length and altitude climbed, plus maps of the route – it would be great if you supplied this info for all your routes, as they are all interesting, and many not in other guide books.
    Where can you get detailed maps of these areas (1:25,000 or thereabouts, with contours)? And where can I get details of the official senderos?

    • Glad you enjoyed the walk.
      As I mentioned to another comment I do not give full details of some of the more challenging walks because I do not want to encourage those who are not so fit, or not used to finding their way without signposts, to attempt them. Those who are capable of them, will probably know how to find them. Where the walk is easier to access I try to give more details.
      As regards maps. I have found the best are those of the Instituto Nacional Geografico (National Geographic Institution) of Spain which are available to download for free from their site at:http://www.ign.es/ign/main/index.do.
      The site is mainly in Spanish but some parts are in English if you look at the right-hand top corner and click on ‘Welcome’. There are 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps available for the whole of Spain. I use them on the computer with my Oziexplorer program which interacts with the GPS. Then if you want to carry a map with you, you can just print out the portion of the map you need. However, they still have very few footpaths on them! You can also buy the 1:25000 maps in some bookshops- I know the bookshop in Los Cristianos sells them.
      Details of the official senderos are hard to come by, but it is a lot easier than a few years ago. You can now get a leaflet from any Tourist office on the island called ‘Tenerife a pie’ (Tenerife on foot), which is a map of the whole island with the footpaths recently rehabilitated and signposted by the Cabildo (Island council) shown on it. On the back there is more detail of 9 of the paths. In addition the Teide National park has their own leaflets for that area, and a lot of the separate Ayuntamientos (town councils) have their own leaflets about paths in their areas. You will only get those leaflets in a Tourist Information office in that particular area.

      • Hi Sally
        Thanks very much for your response (my post was attached to the wrong walk, of course – Should have been the Poris to Arico walk)
        I downloaded the ‘Tenerife on foot’ Leaflet, but the quality of the image was not good, and we didn’t bring a colour printer with us!- so I’ll try to get a copy of it from an Information Centre.
        Thanks for the info about maps, I shall try downloading them. It’s strange that there is so little information about the Senderos, they seem to be spending a lot of money on them, and yet it’s hard to find out much about them.
        i too am a bit of a botanist, and found your notes very useful, i have also splashed out and bought Keith and Zoe Bramwell’s Flora. I try to relate the plants I see to their British equivalents, but that is not always possible.
        If I may make a general comment about walks guides in general, I think there should be more info on shorter, easier routes. My partner and I are experienced walkers, but we are getting on a bit, and like to combine a walk of 2 or 3 hours with a swim or other activity in the afternoon.For example, today we parked on the TF21 below Vilaflor, and found a track which eventually took us to the top of Montana Colorado. Not knowing where the other paths in the area went, we returned the same way, but it was still a pleasant and interesting walk. Most of the walks in the guides we have bought with us are long, strenuous, difficult, one way walks, many relying on the use of buses, and not allowing much time to enjoy the scenery or history or wildlife. There is obviously a huge network of forest roads and good paths which would make good circular walks with plenty of interest, but these are ignored in favour of the high level difficult walks, which are really only for the minority.
        Rant over! Thanks again for your help.

  2. As regards footpaths I have just revisited the site of the Ayuntamiento of Guia de Isora and find their new website of the local footpaths is up and running:


    It is, of course, in Spanish and warns that the footpaths are not signposted and are not all in excellent state, in fact some are not rehabilitated (it states which when you click on the map on the question marks). However, the map gives you the opportunity to plan a walk, and there are downloadable walk descriptions (in Spanish) which also have pictures so you can recognize landmarks, and downloadable GPS tracks as well.

    I don’t know of any other ayuntamientos (local councils) which have done similar websites.

  3. Hi Sally, I know it’s five years since you posted this – but I wonder if you could tell me how long it took you to walk from the Parador to the crater of Pico Viejo? We are going to be in Tenerife in a few weeks and will be limited to using the bus so won’t have time to ascend Teide in a day (we’re on a budget so not keen on using the cable car or refuge!) but Pico Viejo by the route you describe (which I think it what Paddy Dillon outlines in his Walking on Tenerife book?) might be feasible. I think we’d have five hours between the morning bus from Puerto DLC and the and evening one back again. What do you think? Thanks in advance!

    • Walking from the Parador to the crater of Pico Viejo took us 3hrs 25minutes. Descent would possibly be a little quicker, but not much less due to path conditions. You would therefore not be able to climb to the crater and return in time to catch the bus. There are other walks in the national park which could be done in the time, but none of the major peaks (Teide, Pico Viejo or Guajara). Look in http://www.wikiloc.com zoom in on the world map to Tenerife and zoom into the national park area. You will find lots of GPS tracks of routes, most of which have the times taken by the people who recorded them.

      • Hi Sally, thanks so much for your quick reply. Sounds like we would be better looking for a circular low-level walk around the national park instead. Will have a look at the map you suggest. Alternatively we might find an organised group we can join up with once we arrive in PDLC, seems like there are various hiking groups operating though it’s not always easy to find up to date info online in English. Thanks again for your help!

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